Evil Movie Preview: The Summer of 2016 By Ian J. Malone
Greetings, Evil Geeks! First off, let me say what a pleasure it is to be posting on this blog. As some of you know, I’ve been on here before, first as the subject of a book review from Arthur Harkness for my space opera, Mako, then more recently as a guest on the Transmissions from the Evil Lair podcast. Suffice it to say, I always have fun here. So when C-Mart and the crew accepted my pitch for a guest post, I jumped at the chance to re-enter their playhouse.
All righty then. *slaps hands together Miyagi-style* Let’s light this powder keg, shall we?
Summer Movie Season has always been a hallowed time for geeks, dating all the way back to my childhood in the… well, long ago. That season has taken on a whole new meaning in recent years, however, with the rise of the superhero genre — though mostly, I think, because filmmaking in general has reached a place where true spectacle onscreen is now possible in ways never fathomed back in the eighties.
And as everyone knows, Summer Movie Season is ALL about the spectacle.
By all rights, 2016 should be no different. Whether it’s superheroes, orcs, or an all-female team of Ghostbusters you crave, this season should have it for you and then some… just like the last one… and the one before that… and the, well you get the idea.
Without further ado — and excluding the guns-out can of awesome sauce that was Deadpool — here are my top ten must-see films for summer 2016.
Blogger’s Note: All hyperlinks go to the YouTube trailers for their respective movies.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice — March 25
Batting leadoff is, without a doubt, one of the year’s most divisive films. From director Zack Snyder, it’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, or as I call it, “DC Films’ Big, Damn, Sphincter-Clencher Moment.”
This is it, folks. This is the film that, cinematically speaking, will either catapult DC into true rival status with Marvel or potentially cripple their brand to a point not even salvageable by the Batman franchise. DC is betting everything on this movie.
Why I’m Interested: Anyone who saw Watchmen knows Snyder can craft some truly astonishing imagery onscreen. For that matter, script-scribe David Goyer is also a capable filmmaker in his own right.
But then there’s the cast: Henry Cavill who, for my money, was a superb Kal-El in Man of Steel, Gal Gadot (Fast and Furious 6) as Wonder Woman, Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) as the antithesis of a bald Lex Luthor, and finally, the source of Vesuvius-like angst and consternation among fanboys worldwide… Ben Affleck (Gone Girl) as Batman.
Do I think this film has a chance to succeed? Sure, very much so. Do I think it will? *sigh* I’ll admit, seeing Doomsday in the last trailer really took the wind out of my sails to find out, mostly because I feel the studio either A., spoiled the story’s ending, or B., plan to change said ending, in which case Snyder and company can plan to never work in this genre again.
*Potentially major spoiler alert if you don’t know comics of the 1990s*
Let’s be clear: You cannot change the ending to The Death of Superman. You just can’t. It’s one of the watershed moments in all of comics. Tweak it if you must in the name of translating it to film. But to end a Superman/Doomsday showdown with anything but Kal-El’s mauled corpse in Lois Lane’s arms amid a smoldering Metropolis is criminal.
Now factor in the world’s colossal distrust of Superman after Man of Steel, as well as the fact that we already know going in that BVS ends on a cliffhanger to set up Justice League, and anyone with more than two brain cells leftover from college knows where this is going.
Oh, then there’s that whole Christ metaphor thing that’s always been a cornerstone of the Sups mythos. You know, the one that likens Kal-El to the son of God who laid down his own life to save humanity? That could be a hint, too.
I hope I’m surprised. I really do. I, unlike many, am interested to see what Affleck shows as Batman. Say what you will for his role in that other universally-panned comic film which has since been resurrected as a massively profitable Netflix series — *cough* — Affleck has evolved into a fine actor of late (Argo, anyone?). He’s got chops, real chops, and we’ll need that for this version of the character which is said to far more grizzled and cynical than those before it.
In the end, I’m cheering for this movie to fly. I really am. Will it? Well, that’s the $250-million question, now isn’t it?
Clench on, DC. Clench on.
The Jungle Book — April 15
Next, from director Jon Favreau (Iron Man), comes this mostly live-action retelling of The Jungle Book, the classic Disney tale about an orphan boy raised in the jungle by a pack of wolves, a bear, and a black panther. The voice cast includes Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3), Christopher Walken (Man on Fire), Idris Elba (Pacific Rim), and Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers). Newcomer Neel Sethi plays the films lone flesh-and-blood character, Mowgli.
Why I’m Interested: I have a nine-year-old son and two nieces, ages eight and three. I can’t not be interested.
Jokes aside, I’m a huge fan of Favreau in the director’s chair. I even named him my dream director for a Mako film, leading a cast of Jensen Ackles (Supernatural), Stephen Amell (Arrow), and Rosario Dawson (Clerks 2) in a blog I wrote last year. The guy knows charm in a film, and he’ll deliver it in spades with The Jungle Book.
For others with kids, this could be the family flick of the year.
Captain America: Civil War — May 6
Now we get to the good stuff…
From the Russo Brothers comes the eagerly-anticipated Captain America: Civil War, the follow-up to arguably Marvel’s finest film to date — 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Its cast includes returning stars Chris Evans as Cap, Antony Mackie as Falcon, and Scarlet Johansen as Black Widow, plus nearly every other heavy hitter on the Marvel roster, not the least of whom is the film’s antagonist (I think?), Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.).
Why I’m Interested: Do I seriously need to answer that? I mean, let’s just skate right on by the arrival of Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man (Thank you, Sony, for bringing Peter Parker home where he belongs to the MCU). What’s not to be excited about here?
I loved—LOVED—Winter Soldier. It was like a Bourne film with superheroes, complete with every element of a classic spy thriller. For me, it ranks up there with The Dark Knight and Dick Donner’s original Superman as one of those films that was less a superhero movie and more a genre film with superhero elements.
Put another way, Winter Soldier transcended the superhero genre to give audiences something truly special.
Civil War is primed to do it again, only with stakes a thousand times higher. Let’s run down the list. Story: check. Top-level acting talent: check. Effects: check. Directors with a proven track-record of being able to weave it all together into the perfect tapestry of motion picture excellence: CHECK.
The only question is, like Batman v Superman, how will it end? We all remember the closing panels of Civil War in the comics. Will Marvel stick to that—Bucky with the shield in the last trailer, anyone?—or change it in the name of shifting mediums? I, for one, am jacked to find out.
If I had one film to see this summer, Captain America: Civil War is it. Everything else is a bonus.
X-Men: Apocalypse — May 27
Moving along, we come to the next installment of Bryan Singer’s rejuvenated X-Men franchise. Set after the events of 2014’s time-bending/continuity-resetting X-Men: Days of Future Past, Apocalypse sees the X-Men united against the world’s first mutant to stave off his plans for humanity’s extinction. The cast includes returning stars James McAvoy (Xavier), Michael Fassbender (Magneto), and Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique), plus several newcomers including Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, and Alexandra Shipp as young versions of Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Storm.
Why I’m Interested: This franchise is undeniably better with Singer at the helm. Future Past was proof of that. I also love the casting of Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as the titular villain, as well as the young cast who will inevitably go on to star in X-Men films of their own. Add it all up and I see no reason why X-Men Apocalypse would be anything but a fitting, if not epic conclusion to this X-Men trilogy, started in 2011 by Matthew Vaughan’s X-Men: First Class.
Side Note: I’m especially jazzed to see Evan Peters’ take on Quicksilver again. Nothing against the Aaron Taylor Johnson version in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, but Peters’ take was just so much more fun to follow — case in point, the Pentagon escape scene laid down to Jim Croce’s Time in a Bottle. I kid you not, I own the Blu Ray just for that scene.
Warcraft — June 10
Up next is the eagerly-anticipated third film from director Duncan Jones (Moon). Based on the trailblazing MMO videogame from Blizzard Entertainment, Warcraft stars Travis Fimmel (Vikings), Paula Patton (2 Guns), Clancy Brown (Homefront), and Ben Foster (Lone Survivor).
Why I’m Interested: If you haven’t seen Moon, do yourself a favor and snag a copy from your retailer/renter of choice this weekend. It’s a fantastic film, loaded with intense moments, a smart story, and arguably the best performance of Sam Rockwell’s career. It was truly a triumph. Given that, and given that Jones is again working with top-flight acting talent like Fimmel — AND given the magnificent scope of this world — I think Warcraft is primed to be one of, if not the best big-budget fantasy film we’ve seen since Return of the King.
As an aside, my wife is a total mark for this genre (her Hadhafang replica sits atop our fireplace). So odds are good we’ll be there opening weekend.
Independence Day: Resurgence — June 24
Next, from original franchise mastermind Roland Emmerich, comes Independence Day: Resurgence. Set two decades after the first Independence Day invasion, Resurgence sees Earth again facing annihilation at the hands of an extra-Solar threat. It stars Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games), Joey King (White House Down), and Angelababy (Hitman: Agent 47) alongside original casters Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, and Vivica A. Fox.
Why I’m Interested: As a Gen X guy, I loved ID4, loved everything about it. It wasn’t anything special, just good, old-fashioned sci-fi fun where the good guys were good, the bad guys were cheesy, and the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air saved the planet with help from The Fly, a stripper, and a hippie Data (Will Smith, Goldblum, Fox, and Brent Spiner).
Fast-forward to the present, and I honestly don’t know if we need this film. So will I see it?
Bet your hard-earned dollar I will, with a large Coke and a super-sized tub of popcorn, no less (extra butter on the latter, please).
Don’t get me wrong. As a lover of the genre, I enjoy heady, thought-provoking sci-fi as much as the next fan. I just don’t want it all the time. Sometimes it’s nice to switch off the brain and bask in a little escapism where carriers explode to bits in space and starfighters scream through the cosmos like high-octane banshees on crack. Would either actually happen in a void? Of course not. But that doesn’t make them any less thrilling for us as moviegoers to behold onscreen.
My only knock on this film is the lack of Will Smith. Granted, it was his decision not to return. But the manner in which the screenwriters wrote out his character— “killed test-flying an alien/human hybrid jet”—felt very “Drake Romoray falls down an elevator shaft” to me.
Ghostbusters — July 15
From director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) comes this reimagining of the classic 1980s supernatural comedy. Ghostbusters stars Kate McKinnon (Ted 2), Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids), Melissa McCarthy (The Hangover 3), and Leslie Jones (The Blacklist) as the next generation of New York’s finest ghost exterminators.
Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Andy Garcia (The Untouchables) will also appear.
Why I’m Interested: I think there’s room here to really tell a fun story, and by the look of the first trailer, that’s precisely what the filmmakers have in mind. I also love that original stars Bill Murray, Dan Akyroyd, Annie Potts, Sigourney Weaver, and Ernie Hudson are all stopping in for cameos.
Just don’t cross the streams, ladies, and you’ll do great.
Star Trek: Beyond — July 22
Star Trek: Beyond is the third installment of JJ Abrams’ mostly successful (and often despised) reimagining of Gene Rodenberry legendary spacefaring franchise. Directed by Justin Lin (Fast and Furious 6), it returns original stars Chris Pine, Zachery Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, John Cho, and Anton Yelchin, along with newcomer Idris Elba (Pacific Rim) as the film’s villain, Krall (not to be confused with Krull, which would just be awkward).
Why I’m Interested: Okay, so it’s typically seen as poor form when one artist criticizes the work of another. So I won’t. What I will say is that these films just weren’t made for me—and by “me,” I mean a lifelong Trek die-hard who was all but inconsolable when Picard was brutally turned into Locutus at the end of TNG S3. I’ve seen everything this franchise has to offer, from TOS to Enterprise and what should’ve been Axanar. Next to Star Wars, Trek IS my sci-fi bread and butter—always has been, always will be.
Having said that, by the end of the Next Gen era there simply weren’t enough fans like me to sustain the franchise in that incarnation. Don’t believe me? Look at the box office returns for Star Trek: Nemesis and Star Trek: Insurrection. Paramount lost tens of millions on those films. They had to change, so they did. They went mainstream with JJ and the Beastie Boys, and they made money on their property again. That’s what successful businesses do, and as a business owner myself, I’d hardly begrudge them that.
As a fan, however, I have no problem saying that the JJ-verse simply isn’t my brand of Star Trek. Again, I love popcorn sci-fi as much as the next moviegoer (see my own books or my thoughts on IDR above). But Star Trek has never, ever been popcorn.
As for Beyond, I’ll see it at some point, if for no other reason than to see Elba, whom I loved in Pac Rim. It’ll probably just be on Redbox.
Jason Bourne — July 29
Next comes the fifth installment of the critically-acclaimed Bourne series, though the first with original star Matt Damon (The Martian). Based on the NYT Bestsellers from Robert Ludlum, Jason Bourne is directed by Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum) and sees Operation Treadstone’s favorite son emerge from hiding to take on a new threat to national security.
Other stars include Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina), Julia Stiles (The Bourne Supremacy), and Tommy Lee Jones (Lonesome Dove).
Why I’m Interested: I won’t spend a lot of time on this one since it’s not really science fiction. What I will say is that the first three films in this series redefined the spy thriller genre for this generation. I would also point out that Damon is not a guy who typically cash-grabs with big budget pictures. That tells me that whatever tale he and Greengrass have cooked up for this story is one worth telling. Otherwise, they’d never have penned it, much less taken it to shoot.
Color me interested with $10 in-hand for a ticket to find out what that is.
Suicide Squad — August 5
Finally, from director David Ayer comes Suicide Squad, a story about DC Comics’ “worst of the worst” turned mercenaries-for-hire by Amanda Waller. It stars Will Smith as Deadshot, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag, Jai Courtney as Captain Boomerang, and Oscar-winner Jared Leto as the iconic “Clown Prince of Crime,” the Joker.
Why I’m Interested: I don’t know that one could call Suicide Squad a sleeper anymore, but this time last year, that’s exactly what it was. It was “the other 2016 DC movie” behind Batman v Superman… then the first trailer hit and everything changed.
I really, really like this cast. As fans, we’ve held out a long time to see Harley Quinn on the big screen, and all signs point to Robbie’s portrayal of her being well worth the wait. I also like Smith as Deadshot and Kinnaman (Robocop) as Flag.
Then there’s that giant, purple and green elephant in the room, played by Leto.
This version of the Joker will be a lot different than what’s come before, and that’s a very good thing. Heath Ledger’s portrayal of that character in The Dark Knight was timeless, and for my money, the best villain we’ve seen onscreen since Anthony Hopkins’s Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. Ayer and company would be fools to try and replicate that, which is why they won’t even attempt to do so.
That then begs the question: Who is this Joker?
On the matter of style, it’s my fervent hope that the music we heard in the last trailer is a taste of what’s to come. I’m a huge proponent of music as a storytelling device, and the filmmakers used it to perfection in trailer two with Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. It oozed that spirit of reckless, bad boy, insanity-teetering fun that Suicide Squad portends to be, and if they take the same approach with the actual film, I think it’ll hit like a Mack Truck on nitrous.
BTW, just ask Guardians of the Galaxy how the rock-show formula panned out for it.
When all is said and done, I still say DC Films’ future rests largely on Batman v Superman. If, however, DC does intend to hedge their bets, Suicide Squad looks to be the perfect picture with which to do it.
Well folks, there ya have it—my top ten outlook for Summer Movie Season 2016. Feel free to weigh in via the comment section below and know that I sincerely appreciate your taking the time to read this beast.
Speaking of reading, and if you fancy yourself a fan of space opera, give a shot to my series, The Mako Saga, available on Amazon, my website, or wherever e-books and audiobooks are sold. It centers on five college buddies who drink beer, eat Funyuns, and play a videogame on Friday nights as means of catching up.
Only one problem: the game was never meant for entertainment. It was meant for training.
Action, adventure, and suspense ensue, along with touch of romance and a ton of pop culture jokes covering most of the stuff we’ve hit on in this blog.
Like I said, I love popcorn sci-fi as much as anybody. 😉
Cheers, gang. Take care of yourselves and hawk me down on Facebook or Twitter anytime if you wanna rap.
Posted on March 17, 2016, in Geekology, Movies and tagged Batman vs. Superman, Captain America: Civil War, Ghostbusters, Independence Day: Resurgence, Jason Bourne, Star Trek, Star Trek Beyond, Suicide Squad, The Jungle Book, Warcraft, X-Men: Apocalypse. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.